Level of Injury: C4
Cause: Motor vehicle accident
Age at Onset: 36
Co-founder of Unite 2 Fight Paralysis
For Susan Maus, combating secondary conditions is one of her concerns after acquiring a spinal cord injury. On June 30, 2000, outside Minneapolis, MN a driver drove through a stop sign and into Susan's vehicle. She left the scene with a C4-5 incomplete spinal cord injury, and labeled a quadriplegic. Her most difficult challenge then was the lack of independence. With no wrist or hand function, she not only needed help transferring in and out of her wheelchair but also with adaptations for daily tasks like brushing her teeth. Four weeks of acute rehabilitation was not good?. The only focus of those 4 weeks was getting her into the wheelchair and sending her home; sparking her concerns for acquiring secondary conditions, such as increased risk of pressures sores, osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease, which commonly accompany a spinal cord injury.
Motivated by this concern, Susan began to hunt the internet about spinal cord injury and rehabilitation. Her first introduction to Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) was seeing the late Christopher Reeve use the FES bike and swim at Washington University. Armed with information, she encouraged her rehabilitation center to get an FES bike and she began riding during her outpatient physical therapy sessions. Using the FES bike keeps you healthy, explains Susan, FES helps to control my muscle spasms, fight off pressure sores, increases my range of motion, is great cardiovascular exercise and improves circulation. This helps her fend off secondary conditions and allows her to continue rehabilitation. When her sessions stopped, she decided to get an FES bike for her home. I'm lucky that I was able to purchase it outright and then work on reimbursement, she reflects. With a prescription from her PM&R Doctor and a letter of medical necessity, she appealed for insurance coverage. Restorative Therapies handled much of the reimbursement process for her. Eight months later, it was approved and she received reimbursement from her medical insurance provider.
Excited about the progress made toward spinal cord injury over the past seven years, Susan continues to exercise with her FES bike 4-5 days per week for just over an hour per session. Although she has seen improvement in her condition from this therapy, she would like to also exercise her arms (which is an option recently added to the device) and stimulate her calves with the same device. Advice she provides to others with disabilities, reach out to others with the same injuries [conditions] and peers, and get on an exercise routine and stay with it.
And for anyone who knows Susan, she does much more than that. Living in Minnesota with her husband and two daughters, she works in information technology for a health service company and is co-founder of Unite 2 Fight Paralysis, a national organization that empowers those with paralysis through unity, education and advocacy. Passionate and determined, Susan is doing it all and helping others along the way.